'Christmas cooking should be fun not scary!' Top chef Paul Ainsworth shows us, and a host of celebs how it's done!

Paul Ainsworth
(Image credit: BBC/Hungry Gap Productions/Jacob)

Multi-award winning chef, Paul Ainsworth, teams up with Irish culinary queen Catherine Fulvio to show how making delicious festive food can be easy....

Multi-award winning chef and restaurant owner, Paul Ainsworth, 39, is a regular on Saturday Kitchen and has been and a judge on The Great British Menu and also appeared as a special guest on MasterChef alongside John Torode and Greg Wallace.

His brand new ten-part series, which starts today, sees him team up with Irish culinary queen Catherine Fulvio and meet a host of celebrities including Christoper Biggins, Debbie McGee, Nina Wadia, Chris Bavin and Martine McCutcheon to show them and us viewers  at home, how to create uncomplicated mouth-watering festive goodies and sweet treats that everyone will love this Christmas.

Here Paul tells us more about the BBC1 daytime series and shares a few of his festive tips....

TV Times talks to Paul Ainsworth about Best Christmas Food Ever, which starts today...

TV Times: What’s the show all about and what festive treats are on the menu?

Paul Ainsworth: "Catherine Fulvio, my co-host and I, wanted to show how Christmas cooking needn’t be scary, it shouldn’t make you feel anxious it should be fun! We’ve created 48 recipes that use all those things that conjure up Christmas, like cranberries, oranges and cloves. I want people to watch and go, ‘Right, I’m off to the shops to get my ingredients!’"

Paul Ainsworth, Christopher Biggins and Catherine Fulvio

Christopher Biggins, Paul Ainsworth and Catherine Fulvio (Image credit: BBC/Hungry Gap Productions/Jacob)

TVT: Tell us about some of the celebrities you have on the show?

PA: "It was so much fun. Each episode a different celebrity comes on and we show them how to cook something festive. Biggins was hilarious. He told me he wasn’t a fan of cabbage or chestnuts which was unfortunate because one of the recipes I did with him was pot roast cabbage with bacon and chestnut dressing. I thought, ‘Well this is going to be good then!’ But he ended up really liking it."

TVT: Debbie McGee and Martine McCutcheon are two of your other guests. Did you inspire them?

PA: "Martine loves Yorkshire puddings but has never made her own so I made the ultimate Yorkshire pudding with creamed mushrooms on top which I prepared with thyme, shallots and tarragon. She was blown away. And Debbie had never made her own stuffing before so I showed her how easy it was to make one from scratch using cranberries and sage."

TVT: How do you make the perfect stuffing?

PA: "I like to use sourdough bread for the breadcrumbs. I have a couple of slices of toast for breakfast and then leave the rest to go a bit stale, it makes delicious breadcrumbs. My other tip for anyone not confident chopping is buy a mandolin. They’re not expensive and it means you can chop things really finely, like your onions for the stuffing."

Paul Ainsworth, Debbie McGee and Catherine Fulvio

Catherine and Paul with Debbie McGee (Image credit: BBC/Hungry Gap Productions/Jacob)

TVT: Are you a fan of mince pies?

PA: "No, I’m not so keen on mince pies but we’ve got plenty of tips on how to use mincemeat in different ways. Catherine makes a cheese cake which is awesome. We want to show people how versatile mincemeat is, you don’t always have to stick to what you know."

TVT: What’s your advice for using up Christmas Day leftovers?

PA: "Everyone loves a Scotch egg and whatever roast you have on Christmas Day this works. You cut up all the leftover roast potatoes, carrots, sprouts, cabbage really small then heat them up to bring them back to life. Use good quality sausage meat to bind them all together, wrap it round the egg, dip in breadcrumbs before frying and you’ve got the perfect Scotch egg. I make them in the show with curried mayo for dipping. Delicious."

Paul Ainsworth, Martine McCutcheon and Catherine Fulvio

Martine McCutcheon with Paul and Catherine (Image credit: BBC)

TVT: What’s your personal best ever Christmas day food?

PA: "Even though I cook all year round I’m really looking forward to cooking a turkey. I take the legs off first and cook them separately to the breast. You can turn the turkey legs into proper old fashioned turkey rolls by filling them with sausage meat, apricots, cranberries and pistachios, rolling them up in tinfoil and baking in the oven. Then you have the two breasts left on the crown which can be cooked to perfection."

TVT: What are your childhood memories of Christmas food?

PA: "We never went to restaurants when I was young so I didn’t really know what a starter was but on Christmas Day my mum would always make a smoked salmon starter, with a wedge of lemon and some crème fraiche which we ate before the turkey. Having a meal BEFORE the actual meal? That was very special."

Best Christmas Food Ever starts on BBC1, Monday 3 December, 3.45pm


Tess Lamacraft
Senior Writer for What's On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite week, Whattowatch.com

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.